Yesterday, President Dilma Rousseff visited the Sugarcane Technology Center (CTC), a world leading technology company gathering knowledge of the entire sugarcane value chain, and inaugurated its brand new biotechnology laboratory. Started as an association of sugarcane ethanol industries in 1969, the CTC was restructured in 2011 as a private company, and in 46 years it revolutionized the Brazilian sugarcane productivity and sustainability.

CTC focuses on cutting edge technologies working, for instance, on second-generation ethanol while improving the productivity of the sugarcane. The center has developed a new technology named “Flex Straw” to improve the collection and processing of sugarcane straw. This new technology generates additional 100,000 tons of sugarcane waste during the harvest, which, on average, could produce electricity to power a city of around 125,000 inhabitants. The sugarcane residue can be used to produce bioelectricity and second-generation ethanol, allowing companies to increased by 50% the production of ethanol out of the same volume of cane. Moreover, studies conducted by the CTC contributed to improve the quality of the sugarcane itself, which as a result is more resistant to insects and more tolerant to herbicides.

To say it with numbers, this all translates in circa USD 3 million per year of loss avoidance!

However, what makes innovation crucial in the development of any country is that its benefits are not constrained to one sector, it spillovers to the whole society. The innovation developed in CTC not only boosts the productivity of the sugarcane sector, but also puts Brazil in the forefront of the fight against climate change. That was the message the Brazilian President delivered during her visit to the CTC.

Speaking about the target to reduce Brazil’s GHG emissions by 43% by 2030 and the challenges to cut emissions in transport, President Rousseff stated: “One of the basis of this reduction is certainly in the fuel matrix, which happens to be the most difficult sector to cut GHG emissions in the world. But, In Brazil, we have an advantage: no car runs without ethanol in the country. We are committed to raise the contribution of ethanol in our fuel matrix from 30 to 50 billion liters.”

In the EU, the Commission has just adopted the Horizon 2020 work programme for 2016-2017, which foresees €10 million for the development of next generation biofuel technologies in each year of the programme. It is still early to say whether this will be enough to boost research and innovation in biofuels, considering the uncertainty regarding the 2030 Climate and Energy Package and the role biofuels will play in the long run. But chances are that, thanks to innovation, Brazil will overtake the EU in the development of clean fuels to decarbonize transport.